After the departure of David Montgomery to the NFL Draft, Iowa State finds itself with five running backs vying for the starting position.
In the battle for spot are three veteran players who saw action in relief of Montgomery and two true freshman who are both four-star recruits.
Montgomery, who was drafted in the third round of the draft by the Chicago Bears, was a multi-dimensional back and was able to get involved in all facets of the offense from pass catching to running the ball.
Iowa State involves its backs in the passing game, and rather than waste a capable back as a pass blocker, the Cyclones will have their H-back block and have the running back run a route.
According to Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register, coach Matt Campbell wants a complete back to fill the void left by Montgomery.
Like Montgomery, the team will need a running back to emerge with the abilities as a rusher, pass catcher and blocker.
Montgomery’s primary backup in 2017, redshirt senior Croney, rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in 2018. He was able to get involved in the passing game and caught nine passes for 71 yards last season, which is the most of any of the backs on the team’s depth chart.
While he was the primary backup in 2017, Croney split touches with Johnnie Lang and Kene Nwangwu last season.
With his experience and ability to get involved in the passing game as well as the running game, Croney has the experience to separate himself from the other backs.
The smallest of any of the backs on the depth chart at 193 pounds, Lang, who stands at five feet, eight inches tall, ran for 79 yards and a touchdown on 3.6 yards an attempt. He also added four catches for 30 yards.
As a redshirt freshman, Lang pushed Sheldon, who was Montgomery’s primary backup in 2017, and Nwangwu, who missed the 2017 season with an injury, for a significant amount of touches last season.
Nwangwu was named a Second Team All-Big 12 selection last season, but not as a running back. As a returner, Nwangwu averaged 26.8 yards a return as the Cyclone’s primary kick returner.
As a running back, Nwangwu ran for 157 yards and averaged four yards an attempt while also reeling in two receptions for 11 yards. Nwangwu was the only back aside for Montgomery able to crack 100 yards rushing last season and even earned a start against Texas.
The most explosive of the running backs, Nwangwu needs to establish himself as capable of running between the tackles, catching the ball in the backfield and being able to block in the passing game.
One of two true freshmen on the depth chart, Hall was an early enrollee for the Cyclones and already has a big build at 205 pounds. Hall was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and was the seventh best back in the class of 2018 according to 247Sports.
As a senior in high school, Hall rushed for 2,127 yards and 29 touchdowns and had 588 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. He was also played at the 2019 All-American Bowl.
Since he was an early enrollee, Brock should have a better familiarity with the offense than Brock, since he participated in spring practice.
The other freshman on the depth chart, Brock is also a four-star recruit coming out of high school and ranks as the 11th-best back, according to 247Sports.
Brock has a solid size at 200 pounds and a prolific high school career in Illinois. As a senior, Brock rushed for 2,158 yards and 33 touchdowns, and was named the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year.